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Anger over Mumbai must bring in change

Last update - Thursday, December 11, 2008, 12:20 By Priya Rajsekar

It started off as a day like any other. Like any other city dweller, I was racing against time to do everyday things like getting breakfast sorted and taking my children to school. On the school run, my attention was momentarily divided by the drone of the radio news mentioning the name of a city I knew and loved, and had lived in less than a decade ago. 

The unimaginable loss of lives to heartless terrorists was not new to this city. But this time round they had targeted Americans, British and Jews. They targeted the rich, and those landmarks that define the city and attract visitors from around the world. And the perpetrators had it right in their own warped way, it seems, as a world that was once given to sparing no more than a passing glance at India was suddenly riveted to computers and television screens, catching up on the live horror movie that unfolded.
In a siege that lasted for over three days, a group of misguided but determined youngsters had sold off their lives for less than €1,000 in return for their dances of death, armed to the teeth with robot-like absence of emotion and unwavering precision. Some sections of the media have referred to it as ‘Mumbai’s 9/11’. It’s a rather disturbing analogy, given the course of unjust events that unfolded after the New York tragedy, the continuing bloodbath in Iraq and the inhumanity of Guantanamo Bay and beyond.
As I write this, the last of the bodies have been removed, the brave dead who fell fighting cremated with due honours, the blood stains washed away and restoration plans for the heritage and landmark sites put into action. The one difference is that Mumbai’s citizens – who have always moved on, stoically accepting the injustice inflicted upon them – are reacting on this instance.
Even as the daily grind has returned, the peace rallies and the activism are continuing; it’s the beginning of a new chapter in the life of the resilient, spirited Mumbaikars, as the city’s dwellers are fondly known.
Meanwhile the media are cashing in, and fuelling the spark of anger and revolution that has been kindled. The question on everyone’s minds is, will it be different this time? It is one thing to shout slogans and carry placards crying out for revenge or correction, as Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan said in an interview to NDTV, but the key is to keep the anger alive and use it constructively to bring in change.
Like me, many of Ireland’s Indian community have lived in the ‘Maximum City’ of Mumbai. We have absorbed its many delights and accepted many of its ills in our stride. We know that it is not a city to be read about or seen through an alien camera. That special Mumbai flavour, which is reserved only for those who adopt the city and whom the city adopts in turn, has to be experienced to be understood.
For many who have found their way here, Mumbai has been a first step – a helping hand from Mumbadevi, the reigning goddess of the city, whose benevolence makes dreams comes true. Along with our compatriots around the world, we are logging on to community websites, sharing news and views. There are even links to Pakistani coverage of the tragedy, one that even shows a sinisterly distorted map of India. There are tears and anger as well, and a hope that positive change will be a consequence.

But here, too, the (Irish) Indian will move on. He or she will work, live and socialise as always with Pakistani colleagues and friends, a luxury almost unthinkable back in India or Pakistan. The simmering resentment that is so alive across the borders of the Indian subcontinent disappears where the twain meet on foreign soil, their differences almost imperceptible to the average Irish person.
In a few days the dust will settle. Yet the question that remains is whether the ripple of reaction and demand for change will truly metamorphose into something tangible this time. Not like 9/11, where the bombs went off before questions were asked or answered, but in a constructive, unified way that will bring about peace and security.

Priya Rajsekar is a freelance writer

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